“Remember, the sinner who is sorry for his sins is closer to God than the just man who boasts of his good works.” ~ St. Padre Pio
One of the Gospel stories that always made a huge impact on me when I was young was the story Jesus told about two people in the temple, one boastful and proud, one humble and repentant. The repentant person didn’t even dare lift his eyes to heaven. Instead, head bowed, he beat his breast and begged God to have mercy on him even though he was a wretched sinner. The other, arrogant and proud, dared to lift his eyes to heaven and announced that he was a good, holy, righteous man, certainly not like the sinner in his presence and rattled off all the good that he had done.
The kicker to the story was when Jesus said that the first, the wretched sinner, went home justified and not the “good, humble, holy” person.
I have met many of those two types of people throughout my almost forty years of priesthood. I have met many a wretched sinner struggling with his or her sinfulness and begging for help. I have also met those who had a certain amount of arrogance in their tone as they announced all the good that they do. I have always pitied the boastful good person rather than the wretched sinner.
The person who can admit to his or her failings is still on the path that leads to the Kingdom. That person is not afraid to ask for help. That person is humble enough to admit sinfulness. That person is open to God’s love, aid, and mercy.
The person who boasts of his or her own worthiness is in danger of drifting off the path that leads to the Kingdom because that person has turned the focus inward toward self rather than looking outward toward God. Focusing on self and boasting upon accomplishments is far from humble.
Avoid the pitfalls of arrogance and pride today. If you do good, acknowledge that it is God who has given you all that you have and need and that you are doing good to share God’s gifts with others. That will keep you focused properly and help you to remain on the path to the Kingdom of God.
FAITH ACTION: Pray for the grace to be humble and repentant.